PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- Corona (Calif.) Centennial forward Jalen Hill came into Saturday’s Jordan Hangar Take Flight Challenge match-up against Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester with a pulled groin, but that didn’t stop him from scoring 16 points, four rebounds and two blocks in a 63-54 win.
“It was kind of bothering me a little bit,” Hill said of his injury, which caused him to sit for much of the third quarter. “Actually, once you start playing, you don’t focus on it, so I just kept on playing. My coach needed me, and my team needed me, so it didn’t really hurt that much.”
The event – held at the Jordan Hangar in Playa Vista – was an eye-opener for Hill, playing on the all-white court, dressing in the furnished locker rooms and seeing all manner of Jordan gear being pedaled.
“I’m speechless,” Hill said. “I walked in here, saw a bunch of shoes, kept going down, saw the court, it’s crazy. The starting five announcements, those were crazy. The court was good. It was just a great experience. The designs on the court, the flashing lights, it was a lot to take in, but I got it. I settled down and I did what I had to do.”
The 6-foot-8, 180-pound Hill just turned 15, and, he says, won’t be able to drive until his senior year. He is currently the youngest player on the varsity team, but shows a very advanced game at both ends of the court, a relentless motor and very mature rebounding instincts.
The Comets pushed the Huskies, coming back from down 20-12 to tie things at 29 before going down by three at the half.
“It’s our reputation,” Hill said. “We start getting a lead on teams, and we start dropping down, start being lazy and not doing what we need to do. They caught up to us a little bit, we got a lashing at halftime and we got back out there and did what we needed to do. Our coach said, ‘This is the same stuff that we do every time. It needs to stop, and it’s going to stop right now,’ and it did.”
On the recruiting front, Hill and fellow Centennial big man Ike Anigbogu will be in attendance on Wednesday and possibly Sunday as California takes on UCLA and USC. Cal assistant coach Yanni Hufnagel is hot on the trail for both Hill – a 2017 forward – and Anigbogu.
“We’ve been talking to him a lot,” Hill said. “I’ve been calling him, my dad’s been calling him. It’s a very close relationship. I like schools like that, because they don’t just care about coming in here, going ‘We want to win.’ They want you to develop, get developed as a player and a person, expand your skills and help you for the future.”
2016 prospect Anigbogu, who is a relative newcomer to Centennial, has formed a close bond with Hill, as both are being recruited by the Bears.
“We’re really close, so everything he gets, everything I get, we talk to each other about it, we tell everybody what’s up, and not just college; we’re really close,” said Hill, who initially was far from friendly with Anigbogu. “It’s funny. When he first came here – when he transferred here at the beginning of last year – I didn’t like him at all. I hated him. I didn’t like him at all, because you see a guy coming in, trying to take your spot, but we’ve gotten really close. We’re all family here.”